Columbia Business School
Hometown: Washington DC
Undergraduate School and Major: University of Miami, Double Major Broadcast Journalism and Sports Administration
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Matrix Advisory, Senior Associate; Reta Lewis Mayoral Campaign, Social Media Strategist; Miss District of Columbia USA 2010
Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? My first piece of advice would be this: Know thyself. I think everyone knows that b-school applicant who is a freak of nature. They studied for 4 weeks and got over 750 on the GMAT. If that’s not you, then don’t try to make it happen. I took a practice of both tests and realized the GRE was right for me. I had a cousin who was an engineer and he got into a top program with a GRE score, because he found the GMAT hard. So I figured if an engineer felt more comfortable, a communications major like me could really show her ability in a more vocabulary-heavy test. Know your strengths, be realistic with yourself, and take the test that best reflects your strengths.
My other piece of advice is set a schedule. That freak of nature I mentioned, who studied for 4 weeks —
Must be nice! I knew after taking my practice test, I was going to need to give myself a decent amount of time to study. I also knew that I wanted to create a more realistic schedule and not pretend like I would study 6 hours every day. I made a schedule that worked for me and everyone should make a schedule that works for them. For example, I’m an early riser, so I made my study sessions after my 5 a.m. workouts, but maybe you’re a night owl and you don’t want to put yourself through such inhuman torture as studying before the sun comes up.
Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? Be honest with yourself about what you want to do after graduation. I really grappled with what I wanted to do with my MBA. Once I figured out the industry/career I wanted to target, that helped form my list. Then I had to figure out what I really wanted from a target school. Did I want a big city, a small community, strong alumni network, or the ability to intern while in school? My list of requirements ran the gamut, but it came from a place of reflection. Once I had that list, I was able to ask the right questions on campus visits, during forums, and informational sessions. That list was my compass when deciding what schools would be the right fit for me.
What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? Your essays will only be as strong as what you put into them. You can phone it in and your essay will reflect that, or you can really be honest and tell your story. The essays are the only real chance you have to tell your story and reflect your voice. Like studying for the test, give yourself enough time to write, rewrite, and rewrite again. Find 2-3 people you trust to be honest with you and that know you well, to proof your essays. Don’t have them just touch on grammatical mistakes. Tell them to really tell you if the narrative is clear. Nothing is worse than trying to tell the story you think the school wants, rather than the absolute best version of your authentic story.
My biggest piece of advice for the interviews: Remember that it is a conversation. In my past life, I was a TV Host. Nothing was worse for me while interviewing someone than having them turn into a stiff robot or give me the Marshawn Lynch treatment. Just relax and have a respectful conversation with the interviewer. Also remember to be presentable. Like my grandmother always said, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover, but the books with the tattered covers stay on the shelf.’ Put your best foot forward, sit up straight, and be the amazing version of you that showed in your essays.
Lastly, recommenders: Can’t live with them and can’t live without them. Sometimes it can feel super strange to ask people to brag on you, but that’s exactly what you want. I gave each of my recommenders a brag package. It included my resume, essay answers, and a sheet telling them my strengths and weaknesses and how I planned to work on them in business school. The people who agree to write your recommendations want you to succeed, so make sure they have all the tools to sell you.
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I hate to sound cheesy, but when I visited Columbia it was love at first sight. CBS was on my list of target schools after my period of self-reflection, but I wasn’t completely sure it was the place for me. The website made it sound lovely, and meeting adcomm people at forums was a pleasant experience. ut like some kind of business school themed romantic comedy, when I walked into Uris Hall, it was like everything went into soft focus, and I could see myself in the CBS community. Not to get all new age-y, but the energy of the school and the vibe from the students felt so welcoming and familiar that I knew I had to be apart of it. Aside from singing “Part of Your World” in the middle of the hallway, I just knew that CBS met all the requirements I had on my list. It was in New York City, it had an incredible alumni network, I could intern while I was in school, meet business leaders, the students had a true sense of community, there were abundant leadership opportunities on and off campus, the professors were engaging, and the list went on with things I loved…but above anything it just felt right.
What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? I want to join Hermes Society, because I am so happy about the chance CBS has given me, that I want to be a part of bringing other people through the admissions process, and pay it forward on the opportunity I have. I also want to hold leadership positions within the CBS community by being able to lead clubs that reflect my future career goals. I know CBS is going to demand my best in the classroom and I want to rise to the occasion and surpass expectations. I want to build a network that aligns with my career ambitions, as well as find a mentor that doesn’t let me slack off on being my best. I want to try my hand at things that scare me, and travel places I’ve never been. I want to explore New York and fall in love with the city. I look forward to all nighters, learning group debates, finding out more about myself as a leader and team member, and surprising myself daily. Ultimately, I want to leave an indelible mark on the CBS community, and one-day make the list of notable alums. Maybe one day someone will be inspired to aspire to Columbia Business School because I went there.